We exchanged gifts with my parents last night, and my older daughter was a little disappointed. She's at that tough age where she's outgrown toys, but she isn't yet excited by clothes and she's not much into video games. She didn't ask for much, so I kept most of the things she asked for to put under our own tree. There were no big, exciting gifts at my parents' house.
It's hard when something you've been looking forward to doesn't live up to your expectations. I've had Christmases that didn't live up to my expectations either. Christmases where it was obvious my husband wasn't much into the whole gift-giving thing, Christmases where the whole holiday season was more chore than fun.
My older daughter isn't usually focused on what she gets. She's actually really good at focusing on others. But as she's caught in this difficult in-between age, it's harder and harder to surprise her. It's harder to find that one thing that she really wants for Christmas. And it's hard to remember that as grown-up as she sometimes acts, she's still just a little girl of 12 who wants Christmas to still be magical.
And that's why it's so important to keep Christ at the center of our Christmas. Because eventually we all grow up, and the trappings of Christmas begin to lose some of their magic.
But the fact that God sent His Son to die on a cross, defeat death and rise again to save us should never become less than what it is -- completely awe-inspiring. When we put Jesus at the center of our Christmas celebrations, then we discover that Christmas never loses its ability to amaze us.
When we're little, the whole Christmas season seems magical -- from the twinkling lights to the presents under the tree. As we get older, though, we tend to see the "man behind the curtain" of the Christmas season. We're the ones who have to string the lights. We're the ones who bake the cookies and wrap all the gifts. Some years it becomes more chore than pleasure.
Yet as we close in on the end of this year's Christmas season, remember this: Nothing can match the gift that God gave us on that first Christmas morning -- a tiny baby in a manger who came to save the world. While the "magic" of Christmas may fade, the awesomeness of the very first Christmas gift never will.
So, if you or your kids find yourselves disappointed with Christmas this year, return your focus to the stable, to the baby in the manger. Because there's nothing more awe-inspiring than the events of that first Christmas morning.